“Well, You Don’t Look Handicapped” Adventures in Parking Near Assholes

I was walking into Starbucks this morning when it happened.

See, I’d kind of expected it to happen sooner or later, but I at least thought it would happen on a day that I had brushed my hair. I had parked in the handicap spot—it was maybe the second time I’d used my parking pass since I obtained it a week and a half ago. And as I was getting out of the car, some guy sitting at a table outside looked at me with the nastiest look you could imagine and said, “Well, you don’t look handicapped.”

Now let me break this down for you: as someone who has had, in one sense or another, a chronic “invisible” illness throughout her entire life—you best believe I’ve dealt with my fair share of ignorant comments about it.

However, usually it’s by people I know in one respect or another that have the balls to ask and accuse.

But now that I’m taking my offensive chronic illness out into the real world, I guess its open season on me.

I looked back at this guy sitting there drinking his coffee—completely calm, having no idea who I was, what I’d been through, and how much the humiliation of utilizing the accessibility assets of my illness weighed on me.

And I froze.

I was all at once: humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed, indignant, furious, bewildered and shocked.

I looked at him, shrugged, and then stopped at the door as I was walking in. I looked back and said, “You never know when people are disabled. I have a heart condition,” and shaking, I went inside.

And I didn’t feel good about it. Because it was not a good enough response to someone who had just made such a powerful accusation at me. My response had done nothing to release my anger or educate him. In fact, he was probably still outside mumbling about what a bullshit artist I was and how someone with a real, visible disability would probably need the space I was so inconsiderately occupying.

I felt like crying, my heart was racing and I stumbled over my drink order and waited out the counter staring out the window at the back of his head. It occurred to me that the more I try to live my life, go out, be normal—the more discrimination I was going to end up fighting. This was such a sick, horrible feeling—and even if I had gone out there and yelled at him about what a stupid—thoughtless idiot he was—that he knew nothing—that he had no freaking idea what my situation was—it would have only made me feel worse.

I realized that I don’t have the energy to waste on people like this.

And as I got back in my car, intently avoiding eye contact, I started to think about how I wanted to handle this from now on.

And that’s when I came up with this idea:



If you think it would help you, please go ahead and copy the idea! I just ordered these from vistaprint.com




39 thoughts on ““Well, You Don’t Look Handicapped” Adventures in Parking Near Assholes

  1. Hey Ilana,

    I’m sorry this happened to you, it sucks doesn’t it! I have it a lot cos I’m young as well. worst one was when a woman who was a carer stood in front of the space so me and my boyfriend couldn’t drive in and when we showed her the placard she accused me of faking it or conning the council who gave it to me. I think its fantastic that you are trying to educate people, wish I had the patience!

  2. GP1

    What i usually do in this situation is get my shovel out of my trunk and then and smack them in their knees.It kind of makes me feel better and lets them know what it feels like to hurt.

  3. This is a smoking hot idea, Ilana. I love it, and I am sorry that guy acted so stupid. When I use my handicapped sticker or use a grocery store electric cart, I sometimes feel a little weird. But I only use them when I need them, and who is going to manage my body if I don’t? Also, I know that hit in the gut, shocked, hurt, horrible feeling that happens when someone else judges. I hope it did not affect your heart physically that day. I write Balancing Life Changes and Take Comfort-Short Devotionals. It just so happens I wrote about love today in the second. That guy wasn’t showing much of it, was he?

    Big Hug,

  4. Carri

    If you can’t beat em, educate them. Them beat em.

  5. Patricia Lakin

    Thank you for your story. I’m sorry hat there are people who choose. to be ignorant assholes. Thank you for your placecards.

  6. Sam

    Thank you

  7. Mary

    Thanks for this I get hassle the same way, too tired to argue with them as i usually only have ten minutes energy and if I use it talking I’d have to lie in the car then drive home again. I already can’t drive more than ten minutes and that’s on an exceptionally good day.
    I’ll print this out. Just hope they don’t come back with you shouldn’t be driving then!

  8. […] And guess what? They did. And as you can read here, strangers do too. […]

  9. Kim DiBona

    I came across your blog not too long ago through one of the multiple Facebook groups I am either a member of, or have “liked”. I love your sense of humor & how you handle your way through your illness. My daughter has POTS among other things & I will never stop reading until we find a cure <3

  10. Scott

    I also have a handicap that is not immediately obvious. I can stand or walk for only ten to fifteen minutes at a time. People frequently miss me lifting my legs out of the car and only notice that I’m walking at a pretty good clip (to get to a shopping cart which makes walking and standing a bit easier). I got the old “you don’t look handicapped to me” routine this afternoon and responded: “My handicap is my very short temper and yours, evidently, is your inability to mind your own business. ” Then I’m afraid I said some other unpleasant things which I won’t repeat here. So I missed a teachable moment, but I felt a lot better.

  11. […] The Mystery: Rare and Genetic. I loved the site and even submitted my infamous blog post about Parking Near Assholes to their Rare Blog. I also had the chance to meet Nicole Boice at the studio when she came down to […]

  12. I hope you printed up those cards and hand them out. Saves your energy for better uses and politely busts their chops.

  13. KK

    OMG, you just gave me the greatest idea to make business cards about being 25 and 4’7″ ! According to a variety of people, I look like I’m from about age 8 to about age 15 (I am flattered by 15). People are incredulous, and I just feel like, I must exist to blow other people’s minds. Cause If you are surprised by me, you seriously need your mind blown. Everyone needs a good mind-blowing every once in a while. Well, here I am, at your service! You’re welcome.

    I also have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (unrelated to my height) and will be applying for disability soon. It’s not unlikely that I will be using disability parking in the future. In which case I will just look like a normal 10 year old driving a car, rather than a DISABLED 10-year-old driving a car. = more business cards!

  14. […] 4.  Self-Esteem. Let’s face it: before Let’s Feel Better you might have felt sad or ashamed of your illness. But now, like me, you probably feel awesome. Like a warrior. Like someone who can park handicapped, walk straight up and say “well, fuck you and your cardigan old man. I’ll park where I’m legally allowed to park.” […]

    • Amanda


  15. […] But I get it. This isn’t my first rodeo after all. […]

  16. […] look disabled” but has parked in an accessible parking spot (see examples here, here, and here). The people who leave these notes probably think they are being good Samaritans, protecting those […]

  17. […] look disabled” but has parked in an accessible parking spot (see examples here, here, and here). The people who leave these notes probably think they are being good Samaritans, protecting those […]

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  26. You are one of the most talented writers on the entire Internet!

  27. Keep up the amazing work!

  28. I came to the same exact conclusion as you did.

  29. Which way did he go George?

  30. You sure know how to make a squirrel smile.

  31. This is the most toally rad site I’ve ever seen!

  32. Try not to laugh!

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  34. Have yourself a very good day!

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  37. Would you like some popcorn?

  38. These two are some real messy eaters!

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